|WATERTOWN, MA — The Armenian National Committee (ANC) of Massachusetts has blocked another attempt by the Massachusetts Department of Education (DOE) to thwart the teaching of the Armenian Genocide in public schools.
In May, the ANC learned that the DOE's proposed history and social science guidelines mischaracterized Ottoman Turkey's 1915 genocide of the Armenians by using the word "slaughter" instead of "genocide," in contravention of a 1988 state law.
The 1998 Massachusetts law, authored by State Senator Steven Tolman, instructs state education officials to "formulate recommendations" and "guidelines" for public school instruction in "the slave trade, ... the great hunger period in Ireland, the Armenian genocide, the holocaust" and "other recognized human rights violations and genocides" and to "consult with experts knowledgeable in genocide."
Omitting "genocide" is contrary not only to the 1998 state law but also to the testimony of hundreds of renowned genocide and Holocaust experts, human rights organizations, world leaders, and governments. This omission therefore also raises doubt whether the guideline's authors truly consulted with genocide experts as required by the state law.
A phone call placed to Commissioner of Education David P. Driscoll by the ANC was met by the claim that the period for "public comment" on the genocide guidelines was over and that no changes would be made.
Similar phone calls were placed to Dr. Sandra Stotsky, Assistant Commissioner, who refused to even consider a meeting to review the issue. Dr. Stotsky, one of the authors of the guidelines, is an outspoken critic of both multicultural education and, surprisingly, the nationally acclaimed curriculum known as Facing History and Ourselves, which teaches the Holocaust, the Armenian genocide, and other mass violations of human rights.
The ANC was able to immediately mobilize members of the Armenian-American community as well as members of the Massachusetts legislature to take action.
Senator Steven Tolman drafted a letter formally requesting that the DOE "immediately stop approval of the new history frameworks scheduled for Tuesday, May 28, 2002 at the Board of Education's monthly meeting." Massachusetts Senate Majority leader Linda Melconian, Rep. Rachel Kaprielian, and Rep. Peter Koutoujian also signed the letter.
In addition, members of the Armenian-American community, contacted by the ANC, expressed their outrage through phone calls, faxes, emails, and letters to the DOE.
As a result, the newest version of the DOE's curriculum guidelines correctly refers to the "Armenian genocide."
This is not the first attempt by the DOE to circumvent the 1998 law. In a previous incident, the DOE Web site included not just references to the Armenian genocide but also links to Turkish hate sites that denied the Armenian genocide. This would be comparable to the DOE's directing citizens to Holocaust-denial and neo-Nazi Web sites. The ANC was instrumental at that time in having the links to the Turkish hate sites removed.
The ANC of Massachusetts will continue to monitor DOE compliance with the 1998 state law and will work vigorously to prevent further attempts to mischaracterize or minimize the Armenian Genocide and related historical facts.
The Armenian National Committee of America (ANCA) is the largest and most influential Armenian-American grassroots political organization. Working in coordination with a network of offices, chapters, and supporters throughout the United States and affiliated organizations around the world, the ANCA actively advances the concerns of the Armenian-American community on a broad range of issues.